Two weekends ago, the men’s soccer team at William & Mary held a signing ceremony for its newest member. He’s 11 years old and knows more about world geography than what most of the planet calls football, but Andrew Konetsky is officially part of the Tribe.

Andrew was connected with W&M soccer through Team Impact, a non-profit that pairs special needs children with college athletic programs. He is autistic, but that’s only part of his story. He was diagnosed with spinal bifida in utero, was born 14 weeks premature, and has cerebral palsy.

On his signing day, a joint effort by W&M and Team Impact, Andrew was given a soccer jersey with the number 11. He wore it, along with a huge smile, in pictures with his new teammates.

“He loves it,” said Andrew’s mother, Kelly. “We were nervous because like a lot of autistic children, anything out of his routine is sometimes hard for him. But he immediately bonded with the team. There’s no level of discomfort for him at all.

“They have done team activities based on what he would like to do. These [student-athletes] are so busy with soccer and academics, especially at a university like William & Mary. For them to take time out of their day and spend time with my son, it’s amazing.”

Andrew has a remarkable curiosity about geography and history, which makes Williamsburg an ideal setting.

“He loves asking questions,” said Valdi Einarsson, a rising sophomore back. “When we walk around campus, he knows a lot of the buildings and their history. It’s really impressive how much he knows.”

Diogo Branco, a rising sophomore midfielder, had a friend with autism growing up in Portugal. That has helped him relate with Andrew, who he finds engaging and very bright.

“People with autism are often very, very intelligent,” he said. “Sometimes they have some trouble connecting with people, but after we help them and talk to them in a way they can understand, they show they’re the same as us.”

Andrew’s journey began in Kelly’s 18th week of pregnancy when he was diagnosed with spinal bifida. Four weeks later, Kelly underwent fetal surgery to close the opening in Andrew’s back while he was still in the womb.

In Kelly’s 23rd week, her water broke. Andrew was delivered by emergency C-section in week 26 with Kelly still in her second trimester.

He weighed 24 ounces, a dangerously low size that led to brain bleed and then cerebral palsy. He spent his first six months in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

In his 11 years, Andrew has needed occasional surgeries. He has been and will remain on medication for his kidneys and bladder. Because of his size, he’s also taking growth hormones.

“Andrew is an incredible kid to have dealt with everything,” Kelly said. “He understands this is his life. He deals with it so well — better than I could.”

Kelly became aware of Team Impact through a friend, whose sister works for the organization’s chapter in Philadelphia. W&M was not associated with the organization at the time, but Chris Norris, the men’s soccer coach, had long been involved with Child Development Resources in Williamsburg.

In January, Team Impact reached out to William & Mary. Asked if he’d be interested in meeting with Andrew, Norris answered with a quick yes.

“We’ve always thought Team Impact was a neat thing,” Norris said. “We were definitely interested and excited about the fact that they reached out to us.”

Andrew, a fifth-grader at Laurel Lane Elementary, knew little about soccer before joining the Tribe. But he loves history, which makes a college that has been around since 1693 and graduated three of America’s first 10 presidents of interest.

“We’ve taken walks with him around our campus, particularly the ancient part where there’s a little more history,” Norris said. “He’s really interested in finding out more about the fact that Thomas Jefferson went to William & Mary.”

Andrew is also a geographic encyclopedia.

“You know how some kids have a blanket they take everywhere?” Kelly said. “His security blanket is a globe. He takes it everywhere. You could ask him to point out the most random country in the world, and he’d find it immediately.”

Andrew is especially drawn to the five players on W&M’s roster from outside the United States.

“He asks us a lot of questions about our culture, our home, and the differences,” said Einarsson, who is from Iceland. “He asks me about fish a lot because he loves eating fish.”

On April 16, in the Zable Conference Room in Kaplan Arena, a signing ceremony was held for Andrew. He was joined by his parents, Kelly and Mike, his 9-year-old sister, Madeline, his grandmother, Betsy Rial, and Norris.

By signing the letter-of-intent, Andrew agreed to carry himself with “pride, honor, respect, sportsmanship and integrity.” He agreed to participate in team activities, cheer on his teammates “and, most importantly, have fun.”

Seven of Andrew’s new teammates were present. It was a day he’ll never forget.

“He’s been talking about it ever since,” Kelly said. “He wore his jersey to school yesterday. He wanted to wear it again, but I was like, let’s get it washed first.”

Mike is retired military, and the Konetsky family plans to make Williamsburg home. Andrew has made friends at Laurel Lane, and he has his teammates with Tribe soccer.

And there aren’t many better settings for a history buff. Kelly said his goal is to become a tour guide in Colonial Williamsburg. He’s already on his way.

“We were walking there one day and his father asked him, ‘Andrew, who lived in this house?'” Branco said. “And he would know the person and the year. It’s very impressive.”

As is Andrew.